27ú lá Meitheamh, 2012 by Pádraig Ó Tuama: Reading and Meditation

April 15, 2020  • Chadia el-Meouchi Naoum

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27ú lá Meitheamh, 2012 by Pádraig Ó Tuama


In confinement, I have increasingly thought of the sense of touch, of a shaking hand, and its importance in connection, particularly for me. How I miss the physical touch, the embracing of my parents, reaching out and placing my hand on an arm as I share a thought, touching a shoulder or a back to comfort, encourage or empower. This poem reminds me that shaking hands is much more than a handshake. It is no small thing if you are connected to its intentionality. If you are authentic when you shake a hand, you can change and move the world. Shaking hands is a powerful communion, a symbolic act for reaching out to the other, to reach them deep within and there to find yourself. Shaking hands is for connecting with humanity, for reducing division, for bringing down a virtual border, those borders that are far more dangerous than the borders you see because they are not visible and because they are intangible, and like the virus they spread and invade your life. 

The handshake between me and those different to me. Those who I have shut out because they do not think like me, act like me, believe like me. I describe myself as a highly tactile person, yet how many people have I actually reached? Even before confinement. I think of the lives that have been lost and the lives that have been taken because I did not shake hands. I think of the hands that it is hard for me to shake and I wonder if I lead and extend, would these people love what I stand for and think that if I can, they can. I think and I think of how much more I could have shaken hands before confinement. Then I think of how many hands I can symbolically shake during confinement when people need to connect more than ever. I witness how hands can shake intangibly and the power of that handshake at a time when the world needs solidarity more than ever. There is no excuse for not shaking hands. I think how privileged I am to have a hand to extend and that it can be accepted and held and shaken by another human. I revel in the feeling of the touch and of this handshake and I am grateful. I remember every instant that I am also responsible. To shake as many hands as I can, to join as many hands as possible, including my discussed ones. It is not easy certainly, it is tough no doubt, but a privilege should not be taken lightly. So lead.

What are the spaces you are sharing without human touching? Which lives have been lost or taken because you did not extend your hand? Which lives could be saved if you extended your hand now? Who are the people in your lives whose hands have not been shaken? How could you shake the hand of someone whose side has been previously described, proscribed or denied? Do you accept and understand the privilege you have in extending handshakes and that you having a hand to extend puts you at an advantage in an unequal world? How can you shake the hand of those who do not have one or of those whose heart has been hardened by hardship? How can we teach the youth and children in our lives the power and symbolism behind a handshake in order to build sounder future generations founded on compassion and empathy? Can your leadership simply start with a handshake? How could you bring more intentionality in the handshakes you make?

Chadia El-Meouchi, Beirut, Lebanon

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April 1, 2020 •